Title: Engine
Author: morkhan
Warnings: Creepiness.
Characters: Sam, with minor Dean, Bobby, Samuel.
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 2118
Summary: "You will be the perfect animal." The Alpha was wrong. Sam is no animal. But he does want to be perfect… Sam introspective. Spoilers through 6x07.
Disclaimer: It's not me. I'm not driving this train. I'm just sitting in the back and scribbling on the walls. I hope Kripke and the CW don't mind.

Author's Notes: OMG! My first story without Adam. Poor, neglected little fellow… don't worry, I'll be getting back to you, soon. In the meantime, I had this little thing cooking in my head for a few days. It's essentially an introspective on what it might be like to be Soulless!Sammy. Just a little oneshot. Always eager for feedback, so review if the mood strikes you. Enjoy!

His brother is in front of him.

There, in the house. With Lisa and her son. His brother, Dean, is right in front of his eyes.

His brother is in front of him. His brother, who he went to Hell for. His brother, who he loved very much.


Not loved. Not past tense. Because there is no reason for Sam to have stopped loving him. No reason at all.

And yet.

And yet.

His brother is in front of him.

Is he happy?

Sam can't tell. He should be happy. Dean… Dean was not a killer. He was, but he was not. Dean did not relish in killing. Dean killed to protect. Dean needed, needs something to protect, to love, to nourish. Dean is good at those things. Because Dean is good. Dean is good, and Sam is…

Sam is…

His brother is in front of him.

Something… isn't right. Sam isn't quite sure what it is, but it is something. Something about himself. This, he knows, this, he sees, but there is nothing wrong with what he sees in front of him. His brother, with a family. Dean is… here. Dean is safe.

His brother is in front of him.

Sam is in front of his brother.

Nothing is wrong with Dean.

Something is wrong with Sam.

Which of these things is not like the other? Which of these things just doesn't belong?

His brother is in front of him.

Sam moves. His brother is in front of him no longer.

Something… isn't right. But Sam doesn't know. What's right. What isn't right. What fits. What doesn't. What is. What should never be.

He used to know.

But he doesn't.

And that… isn't right.

Is it?

He should ask someone. Someone else should know. Someone like Castiel. Castiel knows a great deal.

Sam prays to Castiel.

Nothing happens.

Sam prays again to Castiel. Requests his guidance, his wisdom, his help.

Nothing happens.

Sam prays a third time before he remembers.

Castiel is dead. Lucifer killed him.

Sam should ask someone else.


Bobby is also dead.

So… Sam doesn't know what to do. He isn't confused. He isn't lost. He just… doesn't know.

He used to know.

But he doesn't.

Bobby isn't dead. Sam is glad.

Sam… is glad.

Why isn't Sam glad?

Bobby is going to call Dean. This is not good. Dean is right, Dean is safe, and Sam is not. Sam is… wrong. The wrong will only taint the right.

So Sam stops Bobby. Argues with him. Presents him with the facts. Simple and logical, his argument is irrefutable.

And yet… Bobby isn't convinced. Bobby is looking at him strangely. Sam has already passed every human-nonhuman test that Bobby felt the need to administer, but Bobby is looking at him like he wants to run the tests again, run a few more, run them forever and ever until he is satisfied. And then call Dean. And Sam can't let him do that.

Bobby doesn't think Sam is Sam.

But Sam is Sam.

Isn't he?

He doesn't know who else he would be. He isn't Lucifer.

Something isn't right. Something is different, and in order to convince Bobby that he is Sam, and that Dean should not be disturbed, that 'something' needs to be erased. There is a gap between who he was before and who he is currently. It needs to be bridged. If not in reality… then at least in appearance.

So... Sam smiles.

He remembers how. Muscle memory, simple and easy, as natural and inerasable as riding a bike or loading a shotgun or decapitating a vampire. His mouth turns upwards. His eyes crinkle slightly. His voice levitates, grows brighter. He is happy to be here, happy to see Bobby, happy that Dean is happy.

He isn't.

But Bobby doesn't have to know that.

And Bobby doesn't. So Bobby relents. And Sam increases his smile. Mission accomplished.

But Bobby still looks at him strangely as he leaves. So Sam knows something still isn't right. Something needs to be fixed.

But he learned during his conversation with Bobby that Castiel is also not dead. Castiel will know what to do.

Castiel does not answer him.

He prays. Repeatedly. All night long. Because he isn't tired. He isn't hungry. He isn't thirsty.

…what is he?

That's what he is trying to figure out.

And yet, Castiel does not answer him.

Which leaves Sam with… well, not very many options. He doesn't know what is wrong with him. He does not know what he is, or isn't, what he does or doesn't want. He doesn't know what he should do.

But he has no one to ask. No one to help him. No way to figure anything out.

What should he do now?

The answer won't come to him if he simply waits for it. He has to figure it out. Deduce it logically, gather clues, track it down. He must hunt for it.

He must hunt for it.

He must hunt.

He is a hunter. Always has been. Always will be. It's what he does, who he is, a part of him, written into his bloody.

Sam is a hunter.

So he hunts.

The first hunt does not go smoothly.

That is inaccurate; it doesn't go entirely smoothly.

The actual hunt was spectacular. Sam performed incredibly well. Better than he ever had, before. He did not hesitate, he did not flinch, he found the target, and he executed it. Quick. Clean. Efficient. Mission accomplished.

The investigation phase, on the other hand, was awkward, stilted. The bereaved family looked at him strangely, and Sam remembered that perhaps he should smile. He did, but it didn't seem to offer much comfort. It was only through sheer persistence that he wheedled any answers from the uncooperative relatives. And it occurs to him, later, as he retraces the hunt in his mind, that perhaps a smile was not the right tool to use at that particular moment. Or perhaps his smile was not sufficiently convincing. Perhaps he is out of practice.

He isn't tired.

So he spends the rest of the night in the bathroom, looking at himself in the mirror as he practices all the emotions and expressions he can remember.

Happy (mouth turned up, lips slightly parted, crinkled…).

Sympathy (eyebrows raised, eyelids open 3/5ths, mouth turned slightly downward, lips slightly pursed…).

Anger (teeth bared, nostrils flaring, breathing rapid, audible, eyelids half-closed, brows downward…).

Et all.

There are a lot to practice. But Sam needs to master them in order to hunt most effectively. And at the moment, that is what matters. The people that werewolf would have killed will not die. The werewolf's taint will not spread. The town is saved. That is what matters.

The hunt is what matters.

So Sam hunts again.

Again and again, he hunts.

And as he does so… he experiments. Different expressions in different situations. Different emotions and their responses.

It doesn't take him long to hone in on which ones are the most effective. Yet the result is… unexpected. Intimidation and low anger rank at the top. Sympathy requires a great deal more work to get the same answer, making it inefficient. Ineffective. The induction of fear, vague threats, physical imposition of Sam's massive frame (which he has never really used to his advantage before)… these tend to squeeze the important droplets of information from Sam's unknowing informants with much greater alacrity. It also tends to upset the victims, but that doesn't matter.

The hunt is what matters; that the monster is killed before it can kill again. That people are saved. And every second Sam wastes on an inefficient method is one that the monster could be using to track its next meal.

So Sam dispenses with inefficiencies. People's feelings will heal with time. Their feelings do not matter. The hunt is what matters.

His physical regimen improves, increases. His body must be in peak condition at all times. He must be ready for anything. He trains constantly, eats a strict, healthy diet that he spends countless hours ironing out in his head during times of transit between jobs. He treats his weapons well, maintains them carefully, and ensures they are always ready to be used at a moment's notice, just like his body, just like any of his tools.

He is a well-oiled machine: a hunting machine, better now than he has ever been. He has saved more people, destroyed more monsters, accomplished more missions than ever before. He does not fear, he does not want, he does not hesitate, he does not flinch. He is the perfect hunter… or fast approaching the territory. There are always things to tweak, ways to improve. But moment by moment, he is the best hunter he knows how to be.

And that is what matters.

Isn't it?

Samuel is… unexpected.

Sam is not surprised, but he definitely did not expect Samuel to simply appear to him one day. The testing process is long—Sam must ensure both that Samuel is human and that his identity can be verified. When both tests are passed, Sam allows Samuel to welcome him into the family—the Campbell family. A hunting family, not merely a family that hunts, but one with a legacy of hunting that goes back generations. They have knowledge and skills that he never dreamed of, secrets to hunting that he could not imagine. They greet him warily, but his skill wins them over quickly, and before long, he is one of their own. They admire him for his skill and dedication, and he… he uses their knowledge well. Uses them well.

Uses them.

Is that right?

Is that the right word to use? The right way to put it?

It doesn't matter. The Campbells bring him several steps closer to being the perfect hunter.

The hunt is what matters.

Isn't it?

The hunt draws too close to Dean. Sam should have seen it coming. Should have spent more time tracking monster movements, should have headed them off, drawn them away, gotten there faster. But he does not, and Dean nearly pays for it with his life.

They bring him to an old, abandoned house that they are using as a temporary base. And Sam sits with him until he wakes up.

His brother is in front of him.

His brother, Dean, is right in front of his eyes.

His brother, who he loved… loves very much.

His brother, who he went to Hell for.

His brother is in front of him.

And yet.

And yet.

Something isn't right.

But Dean wakes up before he can think on it further. And although he is out of practice, Sam slips on a mask of happiness for his brother.

And Dean looks at him strangely.

Dean is out of practice, they say. Dean is soft, Dean is weak, Dean does not need to be part of this.

Sam doesn't know if he agrees with them or not.

On the one hand, he knows that Dean is not weak. Not by a long shot. Dean is strong and capable and dedicated.

And yet… weak is relative. Dedication is relative, capability is relative. Compared to most people, Dean is strong and capable and dedicated.

But compared to them? To Sam? Maybe his cousins are right. Incorporating Dean would decrease efficiency, slow them down, impede the hunt. And the hunt is what matters.

And yet.

Sam… Sam isn't sure. Dean doesn't know as much about hunting as the Campbells. He isn't as strong or ruthless or dedicated as Sam. But there is something… something about Dean, something that tells him that Dean should be a part of this. That Dean should be with them, with him. But he can't explain it.

The hunt… matters. But Dean's happiness also matters.

Dean stays.

It isn't until the baby that he can articulate it. Why Dean needs to be there.

Because despite repeated self-assurance, Sam… Sam still doesn't know what matters. He still doesn't know what he should do.

But Dean… Dean does. Dean knows what matters. He always has, when it came down to it.

Maybe that's what Sam needs. After so long in the cage, maybe that is the thing that is missing from Sam, the thing that isn't right. He needs a reminder of what matters. And Dean can give him that, Sam knows it. If he sticks around him long enough, Dean will make him remember what matters.

Dean knows what matters.

Dean matters.

His brother is beside him.

His brother, Dean, is right next to him.

His brother…